The Olympic Diary – Day one..It wasn’t about the football

I have to admit.  I was an Olympic skeptic.  In the run up to the start of the games I doubted our transport system could cope (especially after the disastrous attempts to handle crowds over the Jubilee Weekend in London, and of course any game at Wembley Stadium), I was certainly firmly in the “very disappointed” camp with my meagre allocation of tickets and had experienced first hand the shocking tactics of certain hotels in hiking their prices to obscene levels.

When major sporting events take place overseas, we (and by we I mean the Daily Mail) try to suggest that they are representing the nation in their disgust at the way we are being “ripped off”, yet when it is on our own front door it is seen as something we should get behind.  But more of that later.

One month before the games we had manage to have tickets for just the football in Hampden Park.  Then, as slowly but surely, ticket were released to the general public I was determined to attend as many events as possible.  This in itself was (and still is) one of the most frustrating processes known to man.  I think it is fair to say that anyone who buys tickets on a regular basis in this country does not have a good word to say about Ticketmaster, and for the Games it was (and still is) no different.

But as I made the long long walk across Windsor Racecourse on my way with the Fuller clan towards Eton Dornay, I was about to take my Olympic Games viewing to eleven different events.

All of these tickets had been acquired by daily (hourly in some cases) searching on the official website over the past few weeks, overcoming the frustrations of the crappy website saying there are tickets, when clearly there isn’t.  Tickets were acquired for the Athletics at 2.30am for that morning, a ticket for the first ever British female Olympic boxing match popped up on my screen at breakfast time after dozens of searches for the event had been fruitless, thanks to the power of the F5 button and finally, thanks to a Spurs fan who decided to head over to the US for their summer tour, the Current Mrs Fuller had the “best anniversary present ever” with a day on Centre Court watching Venus, Murray, Djokovic and Sharapova for less than the price of a burger and Coke at the Emirates. Continue reading

No York my old Dutch

One year ago to the day we traversed London in the name of T’entertainment on a day since know as the Perfect Storm.  So successful was that day that we have renamed the day New Balls Day – the moment when one sport finishes for the season and another really begins – well certainly in viewing terms.

The agenda was similar.  1pm start at Lords for a Clydesdale Bank game then up the Jubilee line to Wembley for the richest game in Non-League football – the Blue Square Premier Play Off final.  The only change this year was that we wouldn’t be heading back to the o2 Arena as we did last year – Michael Buble is not really my cup of tea.

Our home for the afternoon

What makes the day better is that we get to experience the media facilities at both the home of cricket and the home of football.  Thanks to our friends at the MCC and The Football Conference we were in for a great day of sport.  I was meeting Danny Last, our Brighton correspondent and official TAT librarian of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although of course TFL had decided to muck our plans up as much as possible by suspending the Jubilee line to Wembley – it’s OK chaps the 35,000 fans going to the play off game will just in a cab or something! Continue reading

Twenty20 Part 2

Twenty20 Part 2

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Well I’ll be (E)damned! – 20 observations from the Twenty20

There seems little point in providing a blow by blow account of the Twenty20 games as there is so much media coverage of it already.  But having attended the first three games of the tournament I thought I would share some of the best (and worst) bits of the two days as well as a few pictures.  So here goes with the 20 observations from the opening days (in no particular order).

1.  How much money did the opening ceremony cost?  The fact that no one had planned for a contingency of bad weather seems to think it would have been done on the cheap.  And apart from winning some Strictly come Ice Dancing X-Factor’s got Talent show, what has Aliesha Dixon done to warrant an opening ceremony appearance?  And when was the last time one was cancelled?  And the Duke of Kent delivering the opening address?  All I could focus on were his huge ears!  Far too many empty seats as well but not surprising considering it was up to £60 for a ticket!

2. Despite their “solid” start, at what point were England supposed to kick on?  Every other team in the tournament hit a decent number of boundaries.  We managed 14, of which 13 came from the opening two.  But even they didn’t do that in a impressive way.  Bopara’s laboured 46 included 5 fours, Wright’s 71 was made up of less than half in boundaries.  Once Bopara went at 102 we batted appallingly…Where were the likes of Mascarenhas and Napier?

3. Robert Key cannot bowl, cannot run and judging by his 10 off eight balls at the death of the innings, cannot bat in these conditions.  Queueing for my media supplied tea at half time I made the point to Nasser Hussain (bit of name dropping I know) that if Mr Key was with us know we would all go hungry – he agreed.

4. I got an email less than 24 hours before the game saying I had been allocated a last minute media seat.  When I arrived there was a total of 45 empty seats….Guess the result was a foregone conclusion??

Just wrong

Just wrong

5. What on earth are those dancers all about?  Apparently the Reliance Mobile dancers are a “clutch of high energy pitch side performers who will take crowds through their break dancing routines and encourage them to throw a few shapes”.  They looked naff, got in the spectators way and were as high energy as Chris Gayle.  They have no place in cricket!

6. Twenty20 is about players like Darren Reekers.  Born in New Zealand but has since chosen the pancake diet and played for the Dutch.  Hardly the most mobile of players and once conceded 82 off a 6 over spell versus Sri Lanka.  With the bat it is a different matter and he has scored a couple of One Day centuries before including 196 versus Norway off 117 balls including 152 in boundaries.  He set the tone for the Dutch reply with two sixes and a four in his 13 ball 20.

7. The best innings of the evening was without a doubt Tom De Grooth – a real Dutchman this time!  49 off 30 balls kept the Dutch ahead of the D/L score and it was a crying shame he did not get his half century.  There was not one risky shot in this innings – most of the English players should take note!

8. Collingwood made some appalling bowling decisions, such as swapping Sidebottom and Broad after a single over, and in the last over with the Dutch needing just seven runs.  Broad’s last over provides the turning point when on his second ball he should have run out Schiferli but opts to fly into the stumps rather than throwing from 2 yards away – he hits the wicket with his hand and not the ball so its not out and another run to the total.  Then on the final ball with Netherlands needing 2 to win they take a single, Broad throws at the stumps but no one is backing up and they run another to win….

9. Rain, rain and rain stops play starting on time on Saturday morning.  Lolly and I meet Dan at the ground at 12 o’clock, some two hours after play should have started.  Scotland v New Zealand is to be a 12.20pm start and 7 overs per side.  Scotland hit twenty eight off the first two overs as Ryan Watson (technically a Zimbabwian) scores 27 off ten balls to set them on their way.

10. Despite their names, Coetzer and Poonia are Scottish by birth and put on 59 for the second wicket in just over three overs including three cracking sixes – the first of the tournament.  Both go within two balls in the final over, and Colin Smith gets a golden duck on the last ball of the innings.  89 off 7 overs is still a respectable score.

11. A “gourmet” burger at the Oval costs £6!!!!  Why is it gourment?  Because the bun is a multi-seed one.  Simple as that.  It still tastes of cardboard, the lettuce is limp and in the middle it is raw.  Lolly has some chips at £2 of which there are 23 of them.  She drops one on the floor and a bird swoops down to take it – I will be docking the 8p out of her pocket money don’t worry.

12. We sit in the no-alcohol section, which isn’t an issue.  Most fans around us do not try and break the ban but one West Indian gentlemen does.  Every so often he walks down the steps, past three stewards, gets a pint, holds the drink precariously in one hand whilst he shows them his ticket to get back in them comes up the stairs.  When he has almost finished his fifth beer a steward sees him drinking and tells him off – he is too pissed to care at this point.  Beer glass snakes / conga’s are banned at the Oval…as too are musical instruments and beach balls which are removed at various points by Stewards who are the fun police today!

13. New Zealand rattle off 90 from just 6 overs.  Big Jesse Ryder is the star of the show as he scores 31 from 12 balls.  One of his fours comes when a Scottish fielder misses a catch some twenty yards in field and the ball slips through his fingers and hits his foot, flying over the boundary for a four!

14. The main scoreboard is fucked up as it says New Zealand need 22 from last over, even though there is actually two overs to go.  Doesn’t matter though as Ross Taylor and Scott Styris hit 19 from first four balls of the over and see the Kiwis home with six balls to spare.  Great respect to Scotland though for such a performance.

15. The organisers had forgotten to do the national anthems for Scotland and New Zealand, but the Aussies and the Windies linked up for theirs at 2pm on the dot.  Tunes provided by DJ Karl “K-Gee” Gordon who is “one of the highest profile music producers and DJ’s in the UK”.  What’s wrong with Dave Lee Travis???  K-Gee’s amazing remixing of songs like Blur’s Song 2 (involving just starting the song twice) was legendary….

16. The dancers were back again, swapping their podiums at the end of each innings.  Not one fan seemed to appreciate them, apart from the pert bum of one of them in front of us who had forgotten to remove the tag from her shorts.  And one was a spitting image of the Big Man himself, who is currently saving computers in Malawi.  Or so we thought??? 

Oval Panorama from the Media Box

Oval Panorama from the Media Box

17. Lolly wanted to know what the view was like from the press box.  I obviously couldn’t take her up there but she “dared” me to go, so against all of the advice of CMF (hold her hand, don’t let her wander off – well technically she didn’t, I did) I went up there, grabbed a free sandwich and a programme and came back down. 

Bye bye Ricky!!!  3 for 2 in the 1st Over

Bye bye Ricky!!! 3 for 2 in the 1st Over

18. Could there have been a better opening over?  Well I suppose six wickets could have fallen but to see three wides and two wickets was a “mixed” bag to say the least.  And how we sympathised with Ricky Pontings Silver Duck (it technically wasn’t his first ball as that was a wide) to add to Shane Watson’s three ball duck.  The Hussey brothers restored some pride for the Aussie’s as 169 was a decent total and with the West Indies batting attack not exactly briming with talent, as we saw at Lords on Wednesday they were confident of a win.



19. Why do people dress up to go to Cricket?  It is the most bizarre thing.  We saw a Buzz Lightyear, a fat Scottish Sumo, A Mickey Mouse, Superman, Batman, numerous tennis players (why???) and a group of a dozen convicts.  And what has happened to the art of catching the ball in the crowd.  Not one catch held by the spectators today…

Chris Gayle's longest six - well held that man!

Chris Gayle's longest six - well held that man!

20. So talking of sixes I will let the BBC’s short video summary of Chris Gayle’s six massive sixes do the talking.  One of them apparently was the longest ever hit at the Oval and ended up in the school across the road before an enterprising local took it home for a souvenir.  West Indies demolished Australia much to the crowds delight.  The opening stand of 133 was brilliant to watch and Andre Fletcher’s contribution of 53 off 32 balls cannot be ignored either.  What makes it all the better was the fact that they scored 71 off the first 5 overs when the field was close – an example to anyone how to play the 20 over game.  In the middle section they simply coasted, with Gayle happy to amble down the wicket for singles.  After Gayle went for 88 (off 50 balls and including 60 in boundaries) it was fitting that the win came from two consecutive Sharwan boundaries with over 4 overs to spare!

So there we have it….Three games, two big shocks and one near one….The tournament has been blown open from day one and with such a short tournament in terms of time, both England and Australia could be waving goodbye within 72 hours.  I have to say that seeing so many empty seats in the grounds in London (where tickets were priced from £30 to £60) and the price of food is another sign of Cricket’s attempts to follow football and fleece the fan for all they are worth.  They place so many restrictions on what you can bring into the grounds that you are forced to buy food and drink from the venue – all very wrong.

With my shiny new media pass the world is my oyster for the tournament so who knows where I will pop up next….well CMF does as I have to “sort out childcare if I want to see anymore games”

Twenty20 farce….

I wasn’t there but got angry watching the game from Hove last night.  Sussex beat Kent because Kent were 2 runs short on the Duckworth Lewis method after 11 overs because the light was so bad – in the opinion of the umpires.  The game was an officially classed night game and so according to the rules the Floodlights had to be switched on for the duration of the game.  However, four of the lights had failed earlier in the day yet the game was a) allowed to start, b) not reduced in length.  So after Sussex huffed and puffed to 131-3 Kent had to bat in a situation which should never have been allowed to happen.   Kent kept ahead of the required run rate for the first 10 overs without losing a wicket.  In fact only 3 teams so far this season have gone as far as the 10th over without losing a wicket.  After the 11th over with Kent at 61-0 and 2 runs behind the D/L score the umpires confired and said there would be one more over.  Kent needed to score 5 to win….As Martin-Jenkins was running in to bowl the umpires stopped play and said it was too dark and in the confusion announced Sussex had won….No offering the light or anything.  A complete farce!

Secondly, start of the Twenty20 World Cup and England are playing Holland.  I have no issue with the smaller teams playing but the ECB want £60 a ticket for this one!  £60 for a game which if England bowl first could be over in little more than an hour…..

Big ball, little ball and the Perfect Storm

So where is the home of English Sport? Is it Wembley? Twickenham? Some might say Wimbledon, whereas more traditionalists who like their sport laid back may say Lords. Everyone will have a view but to me it is Wembley Stadium. However, I was prepared to give another venue a go and a rare opportunity arose to see a game at two “homes” of English sport in one afternoon. And withsuch a momentous occasion it would be rude to travel alone – step forward Mr Last who had obviously also won a heat of Husband of the Year and been given a multi-coloured pass for the day.

CMFhad been away with her chums for a week in Menorca andI had done a sterling job on children duty, packing inappropriate food in their lunch boxes (what is wrong with Chicken Tikka Masala sandwiches), making sure they told their teachers they stayed up to midnight (it was 9 o’clock but they don’t need to know that) andgenerally doing all the things kids like to do but never get away with it. A cheeky bunch of flowers on her arrival at Gatwick went down very well and so I slipped in the comment about being out all day and why not take the kids to Chessington. And the response? “Absolutely no problem – would you like me to make some sandwiches for you? You have been such an angel you deserve it” What was she planning? We will see.

So the plan was to meet Mr Last, hot foot it up to Lords for the first innings of Middlesex versus Somerset in the “Friends Provident not quite as exciting as Twenty20 Trophy” and then onto Wemberlee for the Blue Square Conference Play Off Final – a titanic fight for a place in the Football League between the Yellows of Cambridge United, and er the Yellows of Torquay United. After Burton Albion stumbled, fell, got up, got hit by a train, crawled along andfinally spluttered over the finishing line in first place, the secondpromotion spot had been eagerly fought with all four teams in the play off spots separated by just five points at the end of the regular season.

The second pomotion place was introduced in 2003 as an end of season play off. Since its inception the teams who have ended up being promoted in this way have actually faired better in the Football League than the Conference winners. In 2003 Doncaster Rovers beat Dagenham & Redbridge on the golden goal and have since hit the heady heights of the top half of the Championship. The following year Shrewsbury Town won back their League place andwill hope for similar luck next weekend when they face Gillingham for a place in League One. In 2005 Carlisle United beat Stevenage Borough andhave since climbed the League One table after promotion in 2007. May 2006 winners were Hereford United who were also promoted to League One, although they fell back down last month. Morecambe beat Exeter City 2-1 in 2007 and actually remain the only club to have won the play offs and not been promoted as the beaten finalists the Grecians came back last year and beat Cambridge United andfollowed this up with promotion this year on the last day of the season. In the same period all bar one of the Conference winners have failed to progress at all (Yeovil Town being the exception who almost made the Championship last season) whilst Chester City have again returned to the non-leagues after relegation for the third time from Division Two.

So omens are good for the winners although on the negative side every final had been decided by one goal or penalties meaning a tight and nervous ninety (or longer!) minutes. Last season Cambridge United and Exeter City played out a tense game in front of 42,500 at Wembley witha single Rob Edwards goal in the first half enough to decide the game for the team from Devon. This time around we expected much more of an open game as only three points separated the teams after 46 games. Cambridge had the meanest defence in the league, conceding 41 goals whilst Torquayhad one of the best attacking records with 72 goals. I had my hat on Torquay, only for the simple reason of being Luge, my man in New York’s, eyes and ears at the stadium – it is not many people who can claim to know a Torquay fan (and seeing Helen Chamberlain on the TV doesn’t count!).

So is this such a big game for the winners? The health of the relative leagues is often overlooked in the media’s bias to the Premier League. Average attendances in Division Two were just over the 4,000 mark last season, boosted by cheap ticketing at places like Bradford who had an average attendance of nearly 13,000 (higher than every team bar three in League One and three teams in the Championship) and Luton who not only had a decent home average but consistently took over 1,500 to away games. In fact there were twelve teams in League Two whose average attendance was less than the top two in the Conference (Oxford United and Cambridge United).

The standard of the teams was not really different either with over a dozen teams in the Conference full time andthus offering facilities on a par with their league counterparts. Stadiums and facilities – check. Oxford’s Kassam, Wrexham’sRacecourse Ground, Mansfield’s Field Mill and Burton’s Pirelli Stadium are head and shoulders above the grounds owned by Accrington Stanley, Macclesfield Town, Barnet or Dagenham and Redbridge.

But before we could sample the media facilities for the first time at Wembley (thank you Keirina from the Football Conference for sorting that out for us) it was a brief trip to the “Home of cricket”, Lords for a quick innings of their tenants versus Somerset. A common schoolboy error is the assumption that Middlesex CCC actually own Lords. They don’t – it is owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club aka the MCCwho rent the ground out. In theory as the ancient county of Middlesexdoesn’t exist apart from being a postal address they could put the ground up for auction to the likes of Kent or Surrey (don’t get me started on the whole Surrey and Oval thing – it’s in London for christ sake!) and banish Middlesex. However that is unlikely to happen anytime soon as the relationship between the two is very good. Middlesexby the nature of having such a marvellous ground are seen as the grown up team in English cricket, always playing by the rules and never really taking that teenage risk. Until last season that is.

At the start of the 2008 Twenty20 season, now disgraced multi billionaire Sir Allen Stanford announced he would be creating a world series of Twenty20 cricket culminating in a Champions Cup where the English Twenty20 winners would play their counterparts from the West Indies in a huge winner takes all game. His long term plan was to create a “Champions League” of Twenty20 cricket with the winners from the respective tournaments around the world all competing for a huge cash pot in his native West Indies. However, he was beaten to the line on the latter as the World Series of Twenty20 was announced for December with the winners and runners up of our domestic tournament going to India to play.

So withan added bonus the English season took shape with defending Champions Kent, again setting the benchmark. On the finals day down at the Rose Bowl they brushed aside the Essex Eagles and met the MiddlesexCrusaders in the final who had demolished the Durham Dynamos. With their distinctive pink shirts lighting up the Hampshire sky, Middlesex held their nerve in a gripping final to win by 3 runs and thus claim entry into the two money spinning tournaments. Kent on the other handwere left with nothing. Because their team included two players who had played in the (then) rebel Indian Premier League they were not invited to take part in th e World Series.

Middlesex never got the chance to pit their wits against the world’s best. Security concerns after the terror attacks in Mumbai meant the tournament was cancelled, and in the Stanford Champions Trophy a village green pitch hardly helped the team as they lost to Trinidad and Tobago.

So hope springed eternal that this season would be as good. They desperately needed a boost as they had dropped to the lower leagues of both the four day game and the one day variety, The Friends Provident Trophy was an early attempt at gaining some form to take into the league matches. So far Middlesex had had a mixed bag with three wins and three defeats from their six games. Visitors Somerset on the other handled the league with four wins from their five games so far and knew that a win would guarantee them a spot in the quarter finals.

Rain, rain, rain….what a way to start the day. I had arranged to meet Mr Last at Lords at 11am but it looked like we would not be seeing any play. The very kindly MCC Media manager had managed to sort me out a media pass for one of the best looking media facilities on the planet – “The Spaceship” which sits above the stands at Lords. As if by magic the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the bar opened meaning that we were going to get a few hours play as well as a couple of cheeky pints in.

Middlesex CCC 341-7 lost to Somerset CCC 293-5 on D/L method- Friends Provident Trophy – Lords – Sunday 17th May 2009

Fourteen year waiting list to sit here!

Fourteen year waiting list to sit here!

Lords really is the Home of Cricket. They have spent millions on the ground in recent years and not a penny has been spent out of place. It is truly a magnificent venue. This year they have installed the next generation of floodlights. Whilst they may look like they have been transported from Eastern Europe or Russia, they are extendable and can grow in a way that any teenage boy would know when he opens the Kays catalogue at the swimsuit page. The media centre sits at the east endof the ground with a perfect view of proceedings and withthe sun shining we looked forward to a couple of hours worth of cricket. Andwhat a place to watch a game from. The facilities there are as modern inside as the booking looks, with lots of curves and glass. I managed to blag Danny a pass as well so before play started we were tucking into the complementary refreshments in the company of very few other media chaps.

The crowd was very thin on the ground, with no more than a thousand brave souls in the stands. The pavillion had a few MCC members in as well. Now what I cannot understand is how there is a 14 year waiting list to be a member here when only a dozen or so actually bother to turn up.

Middlesex, sporting their fetching navy and pink kit had won the toss and decided to take advantage of the fast outfield. They started slowly and it took an early wicket when Godleman was run out for them to start accelerating as the controversialHughes (He is seen to be getting a competitive advantage for the Ashes by batting in the county game before he joins up with the tourists in July) and Owais Shah raising the run rate to over 5.5 an over with some aggressive batting andeasily passing the 100 partnership with a majestic four over mid off (eventually the two scored 119 and82 respectively in the huge 341 for 7 total). We left Lords with a smile on our faces anda spring in our step with Middlesex well on the way to a huge total as we made our way to Wemberlee.

A brisk walk, a nine minute train journey (stuff the tube, Marylebone to Wembley Stadium is by far the best way to travel to the ground) and we were inside the bosom of our newest national treasure munching down on pastrami rolls within half an hour.

Cambridge United 0 Torquay United 2 – Blue Square Play Off Final – Wembley Stadium – Sunday 17th May 2009

Promoted at last!

Promoted at last!

With only the lower and middle tiers open I thought the atmosphere would be muted but I was wrong. Cambridge fans dominated the stadium but the noise was equally as loud from the west country contingent. Our seats were in the media section which you would think would offer protection from the elements. Oh no. The rain continued to fall amongst the sunny spells and the wind simply blew it onto our laptops and TV screens. Good planning on that one!

Five minutes in and the Cambridge fans were bouncing on their feet, drowning out any sound from the Gulls fans at the other end. The first contentious issue was in the 7thminute when mask wearing Tim Sills appeared to lead with a forearm on Wayne Hatswell that had the Cambridge manager Brabin off the bench fuming, yet the referee saw nothing in the incident. Not so Wayne Carlisle though as the Gulls midfielder was booked a minute later for a clumsy foul on a Cambridge player.

The row between Sills and Hatswellcontinued with both of them picking up yellow cards in the first twenty minutes for less than friendly challenges on each other. In fact that was really the story of the first thirty minutes, petty challenges and a few openings for either side. Cambridge had a small shout for a penalty in the 23rd minute when a cross appeared to strike a Torquay arm but the referee was having none of it. Cambridge continued to look dangerous on the break and took a fine save from Poke in the Torquay goal to deny them an opening goal when he turned Robbie Willmott’s shot over in the 32nd minute.

All that counted for nothing two minutes later as Torquay long haired lover and captain Chris Hargreaves ran onto a knock down and powered a shot into the back of the Cambridge net to open the scoring. The goal brought Torquay out of their shell and some fantastic one touch passing in the 40th minute carved apart the Cambridge defence andalmost led to a second bar a last ditch tackle from Bolland with the keeper stranded.

A few months ago (April 1st actually) the Conference issued a press release saying that FIFA had sanctioned the use of squared, painted blue, in each corner instead of the traditional quarter circles in respect of the sponsors Blue Square. As this story was actually released after midday on the 1st April I can now officially confirm that the joke is on them for the rest of the year….Anyway back to the second half…

The pace after the break sped up and both teams abandoned any defensive strategies and broke on the break whenever they could. Hargreaves teed up Nicholson from twenty yards and he narrowly shot wide and seconds later a deflected Sills cross nearly doubled Torquay’s lead. Cambridge came right back at them and a Dan Gleeson effort nearly beat the Toquay keeper Poke at his near post.

This was turning out to be a cracker of a game, andneither team (or their respective fans) deserved to lose. It is hard to see the winner failing to buck the trend of success in the league based on the showing here at Wembley. apologies regular readers for the lack of action points but if I listed them all you would be reading for days such was the cut and thrust nature of the game. However, on sixty nine minutes Cambridge were reduced to ten men which was hard for their fans to swallow (get it?) when Bollandwas shown a second yellow for a silly push on Torquay’s diminutive Danny Stevens when he was basically running into the corner and no danger. The resulting free kick again tested the Cambridge defence to the limit.

Seventy four minutes gone and it was two nil as a Torquay counter attack down the right saw a perfect cross floated in and Sills rose unchallenged to effectively end the Cambridge battle. Torquaythrew on Lee Hodges with five minutes to go – not to be confused by the other Lee Hodges who had started his career at West Ham, playing in the same legendary youthteam as Ferdinand, Lampard and Stevenage’s Lee Boylan who was also  a tricky winger and showed alot of promise in his younger years.

And so the Blue Square Conference season came to a close with Torquay United joining Burton Albion in the Football League. For me I had come to enjoy the intimacy of the league, far more enjoyable than the professional game in so many ways. It had also been a fantastic day so far, but I was not finished. I was off to the O2 Arena for the Blue Man Group Show and another freebie.  The best laid plans and all that….We had agreed to meet at 7pm, the show started at 6.30pm and we were in the 2nd row.  Not too embarrassing taking our seats half way though!

Lords, Wembley and the O2 all in one day, all free andall with the blessing of CMF – The Perfect Storm!

About Lords
Lord’s Cricket Ground is the home of English (and some say world) circket and is located in St John’s Wood, London. Named after its founder, Thomas Lord, it is owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and is the home of MiddlesexCounty Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the European Cricket Council (ECC); and until August 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Lord’s today is not on its original site, being the third of three grounds that Lord established between 1787 and 1814. His first ground, now referred to as Lord’s Old Ground, was where Dorset Square now stands. His second ground, Lord’s Middle Ground, was used from 1811 to 1813 before being abandoned due to the construction through its outfield of the Regent’s Canal. The present Lord’s ground is about 250 yards north-west of the Middle Ground. Lord’s is home to the oldest sporting museum in the world.

Much of Lord’s Cricket Ground was rebuilt in the late 20thcentury. In 1987 the new Mound Stand, designed by Sir Michael Hopkins, was opened followed by the Grandstand (by Nicholas Grimshaw) in 1994. Most notably, the Media Centre (by Future Systems) was added in 1998-9 which won The Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for 1999.

The ground can currently hold up to 32,000 spectators. However, a major redevelopment has been proposed, which would increase capacity by another 10,000 as well as adding apartments andan ice rink. Over one hundred Test matches have been played at Lord’s, the first in 1884 when England defeated Australia by an innings and5 runs. Australia’s first win was in 1888 by 61 runs. Lord’s is also one of the planned venues for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The archery competition will take place in front of the Pavilion, with the archers positioned in front of the Allen Stand andthe targets placed in front of the Grand Stand.

How to get to Lords
The ground is located at the start of the Finchley Road which runs from Baker Street. The nearest tube station is St John’s Wood which is a 3 minute walk away to the east and is on the Jubilee Line. Buses 13, 82 and 113 run from Baker Street and it is only a 10 minute walk from there or Marylebone which is the nearest rail station.

Getting a ticket for Lords
Quite a difficult one to answer as it depends on the game. For general Middlesex county and Sunday League games you can pitch up and buy a ticket on the gate for £16. For Twenty20 games it is £20 and for internationals, well you should have applied months ago! Tickets for test matches against the likes of the Australians go on sale 6 months before the games andcost upwards of £70 per day. There are tickets to be had from touts aroundthe groundbut be warned the gate staff may not let you in – “it’s simply not cricket!”. More details can be found here.

The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

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